Joe Lavin

February 1, 2005

The Neurotic's Guide to Weight Loss

Finally, here's some good news from the world of nutrition. It turns out that people who fidget are more likely to lose weight than those who don't. That's right. The more nervous you are, the more fit you'll become. All that nervous activity can actually account for up to 350 calories a day, enough for someone to lose 10-20 pounds a year.

That's it. From now on, I'm going to quit going to the gym and dedicate myself to becoming more neurotic every day. Sure, the stress might kill me, but I'll be losing weight by doing nothing. Besides, with my current level of fidgeting, I'm already more than halfway there. Add in the fact that I don't usually have an appetite when I'm nervous, and I'll be losing weight in no time. This is the best form of exercise since the abdominizer.

Scientists discovered all this by studying twenty self-described couch potatoes, ten of whom were slightly overweight and ten of whom were lean. The scientists measured body movements every half-second with special sensors placed in the underwear of the participants. According to The New York Times, the underwear was "a risqué-looking pair of shorts with openings at the crotch and backside so that the garment would not have to be lowered during the day, which would have disturbed the sensors."

Dr. James Levine, the director of the project, reveals that he actually designed the underwear himself. Yeah, I'm sure you did, Doc. As of yet, there's no word on whether any reality TV producers are planning to incorporate underwear sensors into their next project, but I'm sure it's only a matter of time. Somewhere right now, I imagine someone is getting ready to sell that underwear on eBay.

The study, which was recently published in Science, not to mention the trade publication Underwear Sensor Weekly, revealed that the lean couch potatoes had trouble staying still, often pacing and squirming for as many as two hours a day. The slightly obese ones, however, would calmly sit still. Even when the obese people were put on a strict diet, they remained mostly sedentary.

All this does explain why I don't gain any weight when my favorite sports teams are in the playoffs. Sure, I'll be eating all sorts of bad food for the Patriots Super Bowl appearance this weekend, but I'll probably be pacing during the most important plays. Imagine if I had not felt compelled to eat lucky potato chips throughout the Red Sox postseason. I could have really lost some weight, possibly all my weight.

Apparently, much of this is genetic. Some people may be just predisposed to fidgeting. It could even be the reason why there are some people who can eat whatever they want and never gain any weight at all. Or those people could just be evil. Scientific opinion is split on the matter.

Unfortunately, you just can't just make people more fidgety. As with sex appeal, you either have it or you don't. Still, some suggest that in the future we could design cities so that people have to walk more. Or perhaps we could just hire scary people to walk through offices and make people nervous and jumpy. Think of the health benefits, and as a bonus it would also keep the scary people occupied.

Interestingly, not only do we make it easier to live a sedentary life, we tend to look down on those who are too active. As nutritionist David Jenkins told The Toronto Star, "We've managed not only to have appliances that help us do less work, we've now actually made it socially unacceptable to do things that might expend energy. You don't like someone who's constantly tapping their pencil in front of you. We should be encouraging that fidgeting and toe-tapping and moving around." Then again, I think he's overlooking something. All that energy you expend when you finally go over and make that goddamn pencil-tapper stop must be worth something.

While fascinating, in the end this study does seem a little flawed. After all, if I had sensors in my shorts, I'm sure I would fidget a whole lot more too. Let's face it. Those already predisposed to fidgeting will probably do so twice as much if you put sensors in their underwear.

©2005 Joe Lavin

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